This has been a good week for revelations. On Tuesday I had a little pre-jump lesson jump school. These days I like to pop Murray over anything new and weird in the arena before our actual jump lesson so that during my trainer’s valuable time I can focus on jumping exercises, not teaching my horse how to get over a flower box that OH GOD IT MOVED FROM LAST WEEK’S LOCATION.
Anyway, I’ve been trying to bring a little more dressage lyfe into my rides in the jump saddle so that rules and expectations are more clear. Things like yielding to the outside rein, proper transitions from the hind end, etc. etc. I hear it will also help our jumping!
Thanks to a conversation with a friend on Monday, I realised yet another thing that Murray has incidentally trick-trained me into doing, which is riding back to front, especially through the transitions. When I sit up and put my leg on for a transition more often than not Murray sucks back and/or hollows his back and pops his head up. My natural instinct after that is to wiggle him back down into the connection (because inevitably my reins are too short), and then there’s no transition. So my choices are between a shitty, hollow transition, or no transition at all — but a proper transition coming from the hind end simply isn’t one of the options.
Instead of focusing on Murray’s face, which is what he “wants” (who know what that horse really wants), I should instead focus on his hind end and getting that transition to happen in a forward fashion. I tried it a few times, and it was ugly, but it got better as I rode. So that was neat.
Another revelation came during my canter-trot transitions, when Murray would lean heavily into my hands and almost curl under. In the past, Murray has occasionally done this to avoid holding himself up and get on the forehand, but more recently he’s just been really heavy in my hands after down transitions. Since I want him to be more comfortable in that “heavy contact” place, I figured I should let him stay there — in balance, of course — and not bump him up off my hands as has been my wont in the past.
Additionally, as we were trotting a circle in this new, heavy contact I notice myself crossing my right hand over Murray’s withers to stop him from falling in so much. I know that is verboten, but I didn’t realise it was something I did (or maybe it’s not really, except when Murray is really heavy and falling?). I tried to consciously release my inside rein and push Murray over with my inside leg instead. It wasn’t terribly successful as he’s quite over that right shoulder and very good at ignoring my right leg, but at least it was more correct. I hope that with more improved human position (which I forgot to work on during my last few rides, whoops) I can get a higher quality bend out of Murray, and start to chip away at that laterality.
So that’s three new things I learned in one ride! Four, actually, but the fourth one I will talk about tomorrow.